The other night, a dear friend called me on the phone. She said that she just wanted to thank me for being such an understanding friend. She told me how much she appreciates the fact that when she's trying to make a decision, I don't tell her what to do. Instead, I ask the Lord to show her what HE would have her do. At the time she called me, she was feeling particularly frustrated with friends who were shaking their fingers in her face, and trying to get her to do what they thought was right for her.
My friend's call reminded me of why I always try to resist the temptation to control or manipulate my friends. It also reminded me of an unhealthy friendship I had with a woman some years ago. This lady was the mother of one of my children's closest friends, and she was a devoted Christian. But she had a major problem with wanting to control everyone around her. She could be very sweet, giving, and compassionate. But if she thought that you were wrong about something, she wouldn't let you rest until you saw her point of view. We started out just speaking occasionally over the phone. Then she began calling me daily, asking me to pray with her about one matter or another. Whenever I had to make a decision about something, she offered her advice whether I wanted it or not. And if I didn't accept it, she was likely to scold, chastise, and belittle me. I began feeling trapped, stifled, and suffocated. And I didn't know how to stop it. When I began showing signs of becoming depressed, I knew I had to break free of this destructive relationship. As I earnestly sought God for His wisdom and strength, He gave me the grace I needed to confront this lady. I knew she would try to make me feel guilty about my decision, but I "spoke the truth in love," and made it clear to her that I could no longer live with her brand of friendship. (Ephesians 4:15)
If you are involved in a relationship like the one I just described, I urge you to seek the Lord about it. I also encourage you to search the pages of God's Word to see what a God-ordained friendship is like. The Bible says, "A friend loves at all times". (Proverbs 17:17 NIV) A true friend does not seek to manipulate or control us. Instead, they are eager to see us fulfill our God-given purpose and potential. And they know that we can only do that when we are led by God's Spirit. When we have a decision to make, they will eagerly intercede for us, and they will implore the Lord to guide and guard our every step, so that we can receive His best in every area. When they offer us godly advice, they will promptly back off when they sense that we are unreceptive. Because they love us, they know that there will be times when we will have to make some mistakes that we can learn some valuable lessons from.
If you don't have the kind of friendships that encourage you to become all that God created you to be, I urge you to begin praying for them today. It's my heartfelt prayer that you would discover firsthand how, "A sweet friendship refreshes the soul"! (Proverbs 27:9 MSG)
Prayer: Lord, grant me friends who will allow me to be free to fulfill my God-given purpose and potential. Remind me that when I allow others to manipulate and control me, I am not under the control of the Holy Spirit, and my focus is on pleasing people more than on pleasing You. Thank You that as I strive to follow Your lead in this area, You will reward me with sweet and refreshing relationships in return!
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